Learning to Trust the Body in Menopause

The body knows how to orchestrate the changes of menopause, even if the body feels unfamiliar. Discomfort with the changes of menopause doesn’t signal a problem or disease. You’re going through a passage that prompts a new way of relating to your body, your whole self. 

The American author, Frank Herbert, wrote: 

Without change, something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.

Many women refer to the journey through menopause as a time of awakening. We often reflect on menopause as an invitation into trusting the body’s cues and allowing them to guide our life. Even so, trusting the body’s cues can be a little tricky. They’re not always clear. Plus, old stories say the body can’t be trusted.

We can look way back to Plato to find the first murmurings of that worn-out belief. In truth, there’s no more reliable source for navigating this change than messages from the body. 

When the Body Complains, Listen with Care

The body has more to say as we get older. It fusses more when we push too hard. It taps out when we keep going after reaching our limit. We could get away with all that when we were younger. Not anymore.

In midlife, there’s a kind of reckoning with the body’s truth. 

There’s also a reckoning with our lives. It’s as if the body takes us by the hand and shows us what’s worth our time and energy and what’s not. As luck would have it, menopause symptoms can provide good clues. 

It could be anxiety at that moment, or it could be a growing mound of ‘too much’. Women learn to lean into these cues in menopause and eventually to trust them, not so much as problems to be fixed but as invitations for self-care. 

When Symptoms Are Clues for Self-Care

The body became accustomed decades ago to the rhythms of hormones coordinating the menstrual cycle. The body needs time to adjust through puberty, and she needs time to adapt through the menopause transition. Tuning into menopausal symptoms as cues and responding with care might just quiet them. A few examples include: 


If you’re ‘borrowing energy’ from coffee during a mid-afternoon slump, there’s a good chance your body is struggling to stay apace.


Do you need more sleep? We need 7-8 hours of sleep every night for the body to restore. 

Are you pushing past your own limit?

Are you getting enough physical activity? A 20-30 minute mid-day walk can have an energy-boosting effect, especially if you tend to hit a wall mid-afternoon. 

Paying attention to energy levels is one of the simplest ways to tune into the body’s cues for self-care. 

Hot Flashes / Night Sweats

Many women experience hot flashes during menopause, making them the most common symptom experienced by those going through this stage in life. 

There’s no doubt that estrogen plays a role in hot flashes. But the picture is more complex than low estrogen levels.

hot flashes

If you’re struggling with hot flashes or night sweats, something else might be going on.

The research is pretty solid about the correlation between chronic stress and inflammation and frequent or severe hot flashes and night sweats.

With the changing hormone landscape, there’s even more reason to turn down the volume on stress and unchecked inflammation. 

Avoiding triggers can help to reduce the number of hot flashes you experience, including alcohol or caffeine, spicy food, and feeling stressed.

Weight gain

As we age, it can take time to absorb the physical changes. One of the hardest ones can be weight gain. As women age into their 40s and 50s, they tend to gain weight. This can be due to several factors, including changes in hormone levels, slower metabolisms, and changes in lifestyles. Putting on extra weight not only can affect your self-esteem but can also increase your risk of conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. 

To manage weight after menopause, try to:

  • Enjoy a healthy diet, including leafy greens, whole grains, healthy fats, fermented foods, and quality protein sources.
  • Exercise regularly, aiming for at least 30-60 minutes of moderate physical activity a day. This will give your metabolism a boost. It would help if you also fit in weight training to help build and maintain muscle mass, which tends to decrease with age. (See your doctor before starting a new exercise program).
  • Accept the changes to your body during the menopausal transitionand work towards decreasing your risks by taking healthy lifestyle measures.

Vaginal Dryness

This body cue can be a tough one. As you age, hormone changes can cause vaginal dryness, also sometimes referred to as vaginal atrophy. Vaginal atrophy or the thinning and drying out of your vaginal walls can result from having less estrogen. Doctors refer to the condition as a “genitourinary syndrome of menopause” (GSM) because it causes both vaginal and urinary symptoms.

This condition often occurs after menopause – it leads to painful intercourse as well as other distressing symptoms like burning while urinating (dysuria) and urinary incontinence.

To help treat this, many over-the-counter water-based lubricants can be applied to reduce this, as well as moisturizing creams that change your vagina pH, so you’re less likely to get an infection!

In some cases, your healthcare provider may prescribe estrogen therapy in the form of a pill, cream, or ring, which releases estrogen to help restore hormone balance.

Bones Loss

Bone loss isn’t a menopause symptom so much as a complication. About 1 in 2 women in the US will have a broken bone at some point after the age of 50. This means one of us is likely to suffer an osteoporotic fracture at some point in the years ahead. 

That’s a wake-up call. Our risk of a hip or vertebral fracture in the low back (lumbar spine) later in life is on par with the chances of having ovarian, uterine, and breast cancer combined. 

The trouble is, you may not know you have osteoporosis until you break a bone. A study this year (2021) showed that three in ten postmenopausal women over 50 had osteoporosis. Of those three women with osteoporosis, only two had been diagnosed. 

Many women experience accelerated bone loss and low bone density the first few years after their last menstrual period in part due to a loss of estrogen. 

Being aware of the risk and taking steps to maintain your bone health is essential. 

To keep your bones healthy:

  • Eat lots of calcium-rich foods 
  • Take vitamin D supplements
  • Maintain a regular exercise routine, which includes weight training 
  • Reduce alcohol consumption and avoid smoking

Difficulty Sleeping 

The body needs cues that it’s time to sleep. If our body is busy or our mind is racing in the last few hours of the day, we’re more likely to struggle with sleep.

It could be that your psyche is chewing on something you didn’t process during the day. An hour or so of quiet time before bed can help you process the day.

Often, it’s just what we need to fall asleep easily and stay asleep through the night.


Restorative yoga, meditation, prayer, a nourishing book, relaxing music, a long soak, ambient lighting, calming herbal tea – these are lovely ways to quiet the body and prepare for restful sleep. 

Menopause symptoms are the language the body speaks when she needs our care. Learning to trust the body’s language is a profound way to midwife ourselves through the menopause transition. 

Gateway to Vibrant Wellbeing

We hope we answered the question many of us have, ‘how does menopause affect your body?’ As women, so many of us struggle to relate with our bodies, which means trusting the body can take some practice. Here is a brief exercise to begin or deepen this process. What is called for in this practice are attitudes of curiosity and care: curiosity about the body’s cues, care for the body in response to these cues. 

  1. Sit with your feet on the floor if you can and close your eyes or lower them so that your attention turns inward to the body. 
  2. Notice your breath. In becoming aware of the breath, simply allow it – allow the breath to breathe itself and observe this for a few moments.
  3. Next, notice any sensations you feel where the body makes contact with other surfaces. You might quietly name any sensations that register: tingling, warmth, and so on. 
  4. Next, notice any ‘complaints’ from the body: stiff neck, ache in the low back, pressure on the sit bones, and so on. 
  5. Next, allow the body to respond to these complaints in ways that feel natural, such as shifting position. The body decides if this is necessary and how to respond. Try to follow the body’s lead.
  6. Next, ‘listen’ for any cues that may be more subtle than complaints. You might allow your awareness to rest on the heartbeat in your chest. Notice the quality of the heartbeat and if it changes: speeds up, slows down, becomes softer or stronger, and so on. 
  7. Sit here in this awareness of your body’s activities for as long as you feel comfortable.
  8. Last, ask your body what, if any, care you may offer now or anytime today. 

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  1. Thompson, E. Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology and the Sciences of Mind. (Cambridge, Mass: Belnap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007).
  2. Thompson, E, Varela, FJ. Radical embodiment: Neural dynamics and consciousness. Trends Cognit Sci. 2001;5(10):418-425. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1364-6613(00)01750-2
  3. Woods, NF. Mitchell, ES, Smith-Dijulio, KS. Cortisol levels during the menopause transition and early postmenopause: Observations from the Seattle Midlife Women’s Health Study. Menopause. 2009;16(4):708-718. https://doi.org/10.1097/gme.0b013e318198d6b2
  4. Woods, NF, Mitchell, ES. Symptoms during the perimenopause: Prevalence, severity, trajectory, and significance in women’s lives. Am J Med. 2005;118(12):14-24. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjmed.2005.09.031

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